Here’s an unexpected way to protect your credit: Create strong online passwords. More and more of our financial lives are being handled online, and as thieves get better at accessing this information, it becomes that much more important to secure it. That’s where good passwords come into play — the better they are, the more likely you can keep your information safe. Read on to learn how to create strong passwords and help to protect your credit.
How to Create Strong Passwords
At this point, we all have more online accounts than we care to admit (or can even count), and the thought of setting complicated, unique passwords for each one can be overwhelming. How can we remember them all? Since the need for security on our online accounts has become paramount, here are a few tips that will help you create strong passwords and a few that will help you keep track of them.
- Set a different password for every online account you have.
- Make sure your passwords are not too similar to each other. If they are and one of them is compromised, it might be easier for thieves to hack the rest.
- Create long passwords. There’s no magic number, but experts suggest creating passwords that are anywhere from 12 to 16 digits long.
- Don’t use words or phrases that someone can easily guess about you. For example, you’d want to avoid using words or phrases that include things like your pet’s name, your birthday or hometown, or your favorite hobby. (Remember that hackers don’t need to know you to guess these things — much of this kind of information can be found online or even through what you share publicly on your social media accounts.)
- If you want to more easily remember your passwords, you can try using a favorite phrase of yours (that no one would be able to guess) and interspersing it with characters and numbers to strengthen it.
- Try not to use common words like “password” and sequences like “123.”
- Include combination of letters, special characters, and numbers in your passwords.
- When using special characters and numbers in your passwords, don’t group them all at the beginning or end. Rather, intersperse them throughout.
- Sign up for two-factor authentication when it’s offered.
- If you need help remembering your passwords, don’t store them online. Rather, write them down on paper (which you then keep as secure in your home as you would your other personal and financial documents).
- Consider using a password manager, such as those listed here by the New York Times.
- Although many browsers, such as Chrome, can save your passwords for you, there are security risks involved. You might not want to save your passwords to your browser.
- Avoid sending your passwords to others via digital communications. If you must share one of your passwords, you can do so in person or over the phone, or using a password manager’s share function.
- You might want to change your password after sharing it (once the other party no longer needs it), or if it has been more than one year since you’ve changed your passwords.
Other Ways to Protect Your Credit
Want more? Learning how to create strong passwords to protect your credit is just a start. Here are a few more things you can do to keep your information safe:
- Review your credit reports regularly so you can spot suspicious activity early.
- Immediately dispute any errors you find on your credit report. Learn what you need to dispute your credit report here.
- If you’re not in the market for new credit, consider freezing your credit to add an extra layer of protection.
- If you think you’ve become a victim of identity theft, follow the steps outlined here by the Federal Trade Commission.
- If your credit card has been compromised or stolen, follow these steps.
It’s easy to feel helpless and frustrated every time a new data breach occurs, but hackers, like all thieves, aim for the easiest targets. By diligently following these steps to protect your credit, you’re helping to protect yourself from becoming an easy target for thieves.
FREE TOOL: Are mistakes on your credit report hurting your credit score? Find out here.